Trumped Up: How Criminalization of Political Differences Endangers Democracy

By Alan Dershowitz

In our current age of hyper-partisan politics, nearly everyone takes sides. This is especially true with regard to the Trump presidency. It has become difficult to have a reasonable discussion about the most controversial president in our recent history. For Trump zealots, their president has not only committed no crimes, he has done nothing wrong. For anti-Trump zealots, nothing Trump has done—even in foreign policy—is good. Everything he has done is wrong, and since it is wrong, it must necessarily be criminal. This deeply undemocratic fallacy—that political sins must be investigated and prosecuted as criminal—is an exceedingly dangerous trend.

Hardening positions on both sides has been manifested by increasing demands to criminalize political differences. Both sides scream “lock ‘em up” instead of making substantive criticisms of opposing views.

The real fear, as Alan Dershowitz argues, in this compelling collection, is that we have weakened our national commitment to civil liberties as the Left becomes ever more intolerant and the Right slips into authoritarian rhetoric. The vibrant center is weakening, with traditional liberalism and conservatism becoming further apart, not just in approach, but in their respect for Constitutional norms that have served us well for more than two centuries.

While Donald Trump is not the cause of this profound division, his election drew it to the surface and made it the dominant paradigm of political debate. Unless we as a nation begin to focus again on what unites us rather than on what divides us, America might not survive the next decade.